Novelist (Darjeeling, 2002, etc.) and cookbook author Kirchner whisks up a tale of escalating crises—in love, work, family, and career—all serendipitously resolved by spiritual baking lessons.
In a story with as many plotlines as a millefeuille has pastry leaves, narrator Sunya Malhotra begins her tale of woe as her life and work seem about to implode. She lives in Seattle, as does her East Indian mother, who was abandoned by her Indian academic husband when Sunya was two days old. Her father left because he sought a more spiritual life and hasn’t been seen since. Nearly 30, Sunya (her name has a special meaning for Buddhists) is a woman “who loved to bake.” She owns Pastries, a neighborhood bakery and coffeeshop, but seems to have lost her joy in baking when she also lost her Japanese boyfriend Roger, who has a new girlfriend and a new job organizing protests for the up-and-coming World Trade talks. Her woes increase when she learns that a big bakery chain is moving into the neighborhood; her best baker, Pierre, takes off; a man loiters outside her shop; and she finds cards with Japanese writing on them left at her door. Her receipts are also falling, and she may have to sell her store. A meeting and then date with Andrew, a filmmaker in town to make a documentary of the protests, suggests new happiness, but Andrew has major problems, too. The story is padded further with tales of her early life told by Sunya’s mother, but they’re not much comfort. Sunya is saved only when, after learning that the mysterious cards are from the director of a Japanese school that teaches baking as a way to heal the spirit, she heads to Japan. There, she not only rediscovers the joy of baking, but also part of her past.
Sugary fare for the seriously sweet-toothed.